Recently I went through a personal difficulty that made me think about the subject of suffering. Do we HAVE to suffer? Is it a part of life or is it possible to avoid it forever? I have never met a person who is happy ALL the time and never has any pain. Is suffering, then, an unavoidable part of life? If so, why? What is the purpose of it?
I define suffering as any type of pain, either physical or emotional. Examples of suffering are death of a loved one, sickness, hunger, lack of physical necessities (roof, clothing, food, etc.), or a breakup. As we can see, all these things occur in the physical body. Thus, if we were only in the Spirit, it is safe to say that we would not suffer. Correct?
Then, what is the purpose of pain? Is there anything we gain through it? Through my many hardships and search for comfort, I have found the following benefits of suffering:
- They make us vulnerable and let us know that we need God
- They strengthen us spiritually and emotionally
- They make us die to flesh and live in the spirit
- They bring us closer to God
From time to time, we need a wake-up call. Humans have a tendency to get comfortable and neglect to give ourselves maintenance. We tend to forget what’s really important. Tribulations help us keep sober and alert, reminding us who we are and what is really important. Think about it. AFTER you have gone through some hardship (not during), don’t you feel stronger and more centered? When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, we were all heartbroken. We expected the worse. However, that experience reminded us of what was really important in life. My mom realized how much people cared about her and how much support she had from friends, family and church. We all remembered that we were not in control of our lives, but God was. We came closer together as a family and we were all assured, yet again, of God’s goodness and mercy.
A preacher once said that when “bad” things happen do not ask “Why?” but “What?” That is, “What are you trying to tell me, Lord? What do you want me to learn from this?”
In the ancient Tabernacle, the veil that separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place represents the flesh (Hebrews 10:20). Through Jesus’ suffering on the cross the veil was torn, giving us access to the Most Holy Place, that is, the dwelling place of the Father. The sufferings we go through in our flesh also kill the body and bring us closer to God. In the same way that Jesus asked the Father to let this cup pass from Him because He didn’t want to go through that suffering, so do we ask God to liberate us from pain. We don’t like it, and neither did Jesus. But, God’s will is above our wants. Jesus’ suffering had a purpose and so does ours.